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The Times' preseason college football countdown: No. 24 Georgia

The Bulldogs are coming off a 6-7 season and are trying to work their way up the ranks in the Southeastern Conference. Georgia kicks off its season Sept. 3 against Boise State.

August 07, 2011|Chris Dufresne
  • Georgia Coach Mark Richt talks to cornerback Brandon Boykin (2) during a practice on Thursday.
Georgia Coach Mark Richt talks to cornerback Brandon Boykin (2) during… (David Manning / Associated…)

Eventually, but not today, we're going to preseason promote a team actually coming off a winning year.

For now, the redemption tour continues …

Don't ask Georgia's live mascot about last season's 6-7 record because Uga's answer is always "ruff."

But it was rough. The Bulldogs ended with a Liberty Bowl loss to Central Florida and grumbling about Coach Mark Richt.

Someone recently asked Richt to offer a devastation impact report.

"Devastation means you've, like, blown up the program and it's beyond repair," Richt said. "So I don't think it was devastating. But it was awful."

The problem with Richt averaging 9.6 wins per season is that none of the seven Bowl Championship Series trophies captured by the Southeastern Conference says "Georgia" on it.

The Bulldogs seemed on the cusp when they entered the 2008 season ranked No. 1, but the only No.1 who emerged was quarterback Matthew Stafford, the first pick in the 2009 NFL draft.

There's a sense the program is sliding, and it didn't help that former Georgia quarterback Fran Tarkenton pretty much said that.

"The past is the past," cornerback Brandon Boykin said. "What happened last year, nobody is really proud of."

Georgia's possibilities cut a wide swath. The Bulldogs play Boise State in Atlanta on Sept. 3 and then host South Carolina.

"If you win those first two games you get national talk and potentially talk about winning the SEC," Boykin said.

The downside is a 0-2 start that spirals toward a coaching change.

Georgia is talented but not deep, so it's probably a plus playing its two toughest games first.

The rest of the schedule is, by SEC standards, quite manageable. Georgia misses the league's top two teams, Alabama and Louisiana State, and gets South Carolina and Auburn in Athens.

Georgia loses star receiver A.J. Green but returns sophomore Aaron Murray, perhaps the SEC's best passer.

The recruiting class has also been dubbed "Dream Team," led by tailback Isaiah Crowell. The offensive line is thin, but Richt jokes everything will be OK so long as no one gets hurt.

It's funny that winning an opener, in your home state, against Boise State, should be so crucial to an SEC team's hopes. It always seems easier giving Boise State credit at the beginning of the year than at the end.

"There's a risk in playing a team that can whip your tail, because they might whip your tail," Richt said. "But in order for us to get back where we want to be, which is highly ranked and highly thought of, we need to play this game."

Richt remains peachy positive and should get a medal just for surviving 10 SEC seasons. Richt's 96-34 record, if it could speak, would speak for itself.

"It's not difficult when you win," Richt said. "…It's when you get 6-7, that's when it's a problem. But greater days are coming. The best is yet to come."

Or else?

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

twitter.com/dufresnelatimes

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